After Hafencity, Werkstadt Grasbrook will be the next step in the development of the city of Hamburg. In this urban masterplan, we saw a need for a new approach to planning for the 21st century that would solve the increasingly complex challenges of urban development today.
Here 6,000 apartments and 16,000 jobs are to be created and, with its strategic location, Werkstadt Grasbrook will be the link in the long-planned leap across the Elbe, where Hamburg is seizing the unique opportunity to grow in centrally located areas in the middle of the city. On a large scale, the development will link the city centre with the south of Hamburg, but the development of Grasbrook also has a special significance as a landscape axis on the northern Elbe.
The city’s main objective is to develop Grasbrook as a Productive District following a new city ideal, in which working and living are mixed together after decades of separation of functions. The Productive District is innovative, like a living lab placing renewed attention on the manufacturing economy – stimulated by the transition to a circular economy and the rise of smart technology. The Productive District is inclusive with a wide range of short distance jobs, for people both higher- and lower-educated. There are plenty of examples of smart, clean production processes and ways to fit them into the city. By involving the neighborhood in these processes, you foster understanding and perhaps pride among the local residents: this is where things are made. Entrepeneurs have assignments in varying sizes or they grow over time and should be involved with ideas and initiatives to experiment and stimulate innovation.
To give an answer to the increasingly complex challenges of urban development, MVRDV investigated topics such as innovation, inclusion, urban production, and alternative mobility concepts. This led to a consideration of approaches to tackle Grasbrook’s dynamic development – considerations made particularly important by the fact that this large-scale urban process will last for 20 years. This means that the planning process must offer the opportunity to respond to climatic and social changes, new forms of mobility, and take into account the effects of digitization on cities. An urban plan that covers the next two decades has to be flexible and has to be thought of in way that allows us to constantly implement changes and adapt to new challenges.
To respond to these questions, we developed the Grasbrook Maker: a "Serious Game" that presents an interactive platform to playfully explore different possibilities for the future development of Grasbrook. The Grasbrook Maker envisions a new model of urban planning, to be used, played, and developed by the people in the neighbourhood, using their intimate knowledge of the place. As in all games, the Grasbrook Maker has a set of rules, a framework that gives flexibility to the designers, participants, and developers. The designers can design and test the framework; the participants can define and place the public projects; and developers and entrepreneurs can develop the urban blocks. The special elements, which we call “activators”, are developed for Grasbrook as a specific response to the site. We use the advantages of simulation to provide fast and dynamic answers. There is always the option to freeze certain parts in the planning process, or restarting the process at any point with new players.
Going into more detail, the Grasbrook Maker starts with a modular grid based on the existing heritage of the site. The framework consists of the main spine from which smaller streets on both sides can grow organically, like a tree structure, towards the waterfront. For logistical reasons, the main spine would attract larger-grain urban production elements while the waterfront, attracting housing and recreation, creates an attractive layered skyline offering maximum views to the water. The mobility centre, located on the crossing of the Metro stop and the bridge over the ringroad and railtrack, functions as a neighbourhood centre, attracting taller buildings, density, and a mix of programmes. The ringroad and railtrack attracts large offices which receive good views while blocking traffic noise. The atmosphere of Gras ‘Brook’, meaning Bruchwald, will be maintained with the tidal park, offering a changing landscape and emphasizing the green corridor of Hamburg.
Though we will not pursue the Grasbrook project further, we will use our research into the Grasbrook Maker – an interactive, democratic, and data driven platform – as a promising and forward-looking basis for further urban planning projects as it allows us to transfer high flexibility and adaptability to other places with different conditions and problems.
- Principal in charge
- Design Team